Regional Foodie makes an onsite visit to Noosaville’s most popular urban farm, oyster mushroom growers, Noosa Earth, as part of FAN’s (Food and Agribusiness Network) farm and factory tours for network members.
Truth be known, it was not my first visit to Noosa Earth, having visited last year, but as part of FAN’s ongoing commitment to offer members knowledge and insight to food industries and a few new developments in the Noosa Earth space, I thought I would pop along again.
Food waste has been a hot topic of recent times, and considering we are a nation that contributes to a substantial amount of waste, you can understand why it is such a hot topic.
However, there is move towards more of an understanding about this waste and small significant things that producers, especially, are implementing to help minimise this waste.
Noosa Earth is one such producer. Noosa Earth is the ultimate in urban farming. Unassumingly located on an urban block in the industrial area of Noosaville, at first glance you would be forgiven for thinking there is not much going on.
But the vision of Michael Baulch and Simon Jones has seen this unassuming urban block turn into a hub of activity and the home to Noosa Earth and some fantastical oyster mushrooms.
Now, I do have a bit of a thing for oyster mushrooms, having had my own foray into an oyster mushroom explosion in my bathroom for a short period of time. These magical freaks of nature expand almost in front of your eyes.
Noosa Earth grows a few varieties depending on the season. Last year they were growing Pink, Phoenix and Elm varieties, but are now growing Pink and Tan, having transitioned into varieties that are better suited to current growing conditions.
The real point of difference however is Noosa Earth’s focus on waste utilisation and sustainability, which has seen them take the innovative approach of adding spent coffee grounds, gathered from local cafés to their substrate from which the mushrooms are grown.
The substrate is essentially a blend of straw and coffee grounds, the coffee ground adding valuable nitrogen to the nutritional mix.
Simon coordinates the collection of grounds from the local cafes to ensure grounds preserved efficiently for use. From there the substrate is packed into plastic bags pierced with small air holes and are hung on racks in an environmentally controlled storage container, which has been converted to suit the purpose and provide the ideal climate.
Then the magic happens… as the mushrooms emerge they are relocated into another container for the next stage of their growth, and harvested as required. Let me assure you that they expand in volume very quickly!
Sounds easy, right? However, Simon promises me that it is a little more complicated than it sounds and this extraordinary fungus is prone to quirks of nature as much as any other living enzyme.
The oyster mushrooms go through two growing cycles, and while they could quite easily expend another harvest, they are at this point ‘retired’ and repurposed to their urban kitchen garden where it enjoys another life cycle as the nutrient dense base for an assortment of vegetables. When it is finally spent totally, it enjoys yet another life and is composted to begin another cycle altogether.
Nothing is wasted. It is an entire cycle, one that the team at Noosa Earth are keen to extend and maximise as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
The mushrooms are perfect little works of natural art, and tasty little morsels at that, so much so, local chefs are clamouring to feature the mushrooms on their menus, knowing that they are supporting a business that has an ethical environmental conscience as well as providing quality chemical free produce.
A collaboration with Noosa’s Wood Fire Grill master smoker, Marcus Benbi, has also seen them produce a fabulous Smoked Mushroom Powder and Smoked Mushroom Butter and well as Dried and Smoked Dried Mushrooms, which are available for purchase from local providores along with their fresh produce. The results so far are exciting, the possibilities of what may come even more so and a great example of collaboration and ethical farming.
Well done Noosa Earth, and congratulations – State Winner delicious awards 2017, and recipient of a ‘Snail of Approval’ awarded by Slow Food Noosa – proves that it is not just me that thinks their mushrooms are awesome.
Big thanks to Noosa Earth for welcoming our members and allowing them to enjoy a glimpse of the great work that you do. The guacamole with smoked mushroom powder was amazing, as was the fresh mushroom salsa… and the steak, with smoked mushroom butter… wow!
FAN – Food and Agribusiness Network host a number of onsite farm/factory tours for members every year, so if you missed this one, make sure you look out for the next one. If you are not a member it is one of the many great things FAN offers to its members. To find out more.
For more information about Noosa Earth…
This story was written by Petra Hughes – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds